Was the last time you slept well was weeks ago? Feeling anxious and unfocused? There are a number of ways in which holiday stress (perhaps enhanced by the pandemic) can manifest itself, changing your body, mood, and behaviors. It might surprise you to learn how this stress and anxiety can affect your pelvic floor.
Pelvic Floor: What is it?
There are many types of tissues in the pelvic floor, which are located between the hips and the pelvis at the base of the lower back. Your muscles, ligaments, nerves, and connective tissues all play a crucial role in your body, including:
- Bladder, the bowel, the uterus (female), and the prostate gland (male) functioning
- Male and female sexual function
- Stabilization and strengthening of the core, hips, and lower back
- Maintaining regular bowel movements and control of your bladder
By pretending to hold your urine, you can identify your pelvic floor muscles. If you feel a slight squeeze, you are contracting your pelvic floor muscles.
The Relationship Between Stress and Pelvic Pain
Stress is a natural part of life. It is the body’s response to a change in the environment around us, whether it is real or perceived. Having no relief between stressors makes stress problematic if it is prolonged. Our mental state is particularly likely to affect the pelvic floor, meaning the tissues are most likely to be affected by stress and anxiety.
What Stress Does to the Pelvic Floor
We don’t seem to be aware of the sensations associated with the pelvic floor when we experience pelvic floor tension. You might not realize that you have stress-related pelvic floor tension until new and troubling symptoms begin to appear. Which symptoms might you experience? You might experience:
- Increased trips to the toilet (more frequent urination)
- Urgency (strong need for the restroom, hard to control)
- Urinating more than once at night.
- Sexual dysfunction or pain
- Symptoms associated with the pelvic girdle (tension in the hips, pubic bone, low back, groin)
Pelvic Floor Stress Management Tips
Stress-related symptoms that appear as warning signs in the body are particularly common on the pelvic floor. Often we brush off symptoms of pelvic floor tension because they are embarrassing and sensitive to discuss. In general, we all manage short-term stressors well (bruises, cuts, traumas). We may rest, wrap the area of tissue trauma with ice packs, or apply a bandage. Isn’t the pelvic floor also in need of tender loving care? Fortunately, there are ways to manage stress, soothe the nervous system, and eliminate unwanted pelvic floor symptoms.
Try these tips if you are feeling holiday stress:
- Engage in deep breathing exercises: https://www.verywellmind.com/abdominal-breathing-2584115
- Spend time in the Constructive Rest Position: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jmJbcS-Ux2U
- Using stretches to release the pelvic floor tension: https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness-exercise/pelvic-floor-exercises
- Practice mindfulness, yoga, and meditation: https://www.mindful.org/meditation/mindfulness-getting-started/
- Change your perspective on stress: https://www.happify.com/hd/5-ways-to-change-the-way-you-think-about-stress/
Don’t forget that there are healthcare professionals who want to help you! You can get help with your stress-related pelvic floor tension by contacting Julie Bottarini Physical Therapy.